I believe two years was good enough to know the person and to figure out the kind of character he has as I had spent the ordinary days together with him at home and at work for some time.

Of course, I do acknowledge that no matter how keen I am in observing such person’s thoughts, feelings, gestures, and behaviors, my point of view from this narration can still be subjective in understanding the true nature of this persona who was once a bad stranger to me, but later on has become a good friend. However, I see to it that whatever is here upholds the sincerity of my perspective in the way I look at him, both good and not so good alike.


That’s his name.

MJ can easily be misinterpreted by many. To appreciate him, you need to peel him like an onion so he can get through you. In fact, I didn’t have a good impression of him the first time we met, and I didn’t even consider much to befriend him. However, circumstances had a way of giving us the benefit to connect with each other. Not only were we assigned on the same branch of school to teach, but we were also roommates in the company’s apartment for some time. For the time being, we talked, but never really got the right connection. Not until one fateful day, he was faced with a crisis and he needed someone to talk to. He found the need to open up and to seek for advice and I found the need to listen and respond to his call. We both saw the other side of us, and that was the start of the many worthwhile moments we shared together in Saudi.

MJ’s physical feature of having a bit long closed to V-shape face with his slender body standing at an average height earns him an identity linked to either Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee in the eyes of many Arabs. He had been consistently compared to both figures in random. The funny thing about it was that his fellow Filipinos could hardly see the similarities. What I gave was the closest conclusion I could make, but there could still be a missing link.

MJ has unusual palpitation of his heart. There was a time when we had a conversation about dancing, and he shared that he was once a contestant in a dance sport competition. I wasn’t convinced so he was forced to show me some moves, he ended up having heightened palpitation while turning pale, instead. He strategically had to rest his entire body on the floor as if he was accustomed of doing it under such circumstance.

MJ cannot sustain skipping meals. At one point, I witnessed him at work feeling dizzy and gradually fainted in front of me. My workmates and I had to do some remedy to bring him back to consciousness. He admitted skipping his meal as the trigger to his demise. So, he was fed  first to ensure he was ready to report at his class. On that moment onwards, he learned to practice bringing food in school whenever he ran late at work so he could eat something at the office during his break time.

Only MJ can’t look at Banana Smile, Baskin and Robins, and KFC the same way again.

MJ is lenient as a teacher. Being such got him the spot to be well liked by his students and to build good rapport to them even beyond the classroom. It’s his charisma of openness which attracted his students to reach out to him in the friendliest way, and most of them reached out their hands with gifts. I’m sure, he wouldn’t forget the expensive watch that was given to him by one of his students for going the extra mile to teach. On the other hand, the same thing could be taken against him when a student exploited MJ’s goodness, and made his days or weeks miserable.

MJ is careless. There were many instances where he was the culprit of damaging things like breaking my bed frame when he forcefully mount on my bed out of his overjoy, breaking the spinner of the washing machine which affected us from doing laundry as scheduled, being the source of the Recycler virus on his assigned computer which spread all over our computers, and the rest could be a long list of his epic fail.

When MJ is overwhelmed, he seems to be not conscious on what he does. Equally, when he starts to focus his both eyes side ways on a certain fix, that’s another sign that he’s lost in translation trapped in his own world. One time, he visited me at our apartment for some urgent errands to do in Saihat. Since we still had our work that day, I advised him I couldn’t accommodate to wait for him leave so I could lock the door for him. Instead, I urged him to just close the doors and to leave them unlocked. To my surprise, as soon as I got up from my bed after some time he left, all doors were open. He left them open out of his urgency or panic like a thief who left such mess on his rush. Good thing nobody dared to get in. The same situation made him act this way, when we got lost near Rashed area, and we couldnt find a taxi to get back on track. For a while, we needed to walk to get in the main street for a ride. I was suggesting him some options to bypass it, while he was too busy deciphering what just happened to us as if he couldn’t believe it or as if he couldn’t manage to move on.

MJ has his own style of getting disappointed to unmet expectation. As old as he might be, he could have a big tantrum to me when some other people managed to be in our company while he was already conditioned to go out with just the two of us or when he planned to buy something and he couldn’t find the right item, we won’t go home til we could find what he wanted. Let alone the emergency lights we bought after hours of shop hopping. Well, it’s better to go home tired than to pester me with his disappointed look on his face or worst poking me up with his words of wasted effort like a broken record.

MJ knows that I can read him good. With our years of being in each other’s company,  I could simply read his thoughts and feelings towards something, and he eventually learned to adapt my way of thinking, too, which sometimes, he used the same approach on how to put pressure on me. It’s called boomerang or mirroring. I hate it when he does that to me intentionally.

MJ’s is fond of the expression “Oh My Goodness” to react on certain surprise or amazement. On the other hand, he knows me better for using “Exactly the Point” when I want to slap him the same argument and manage to use it as a counter argument. Meanwhile, the expressions “See…I’m trembling!” and “My body is painful.” stood out in his memory.

Only MJ can decipher what’s behind Manang Biday, Gaea, King, Ningers, Dally, and Karmy.

MJ is vain in having white skin. There was always consideration to not walk under the sun for a long time or to schedule going somewhere when the sun set. Sometimes, I would tell him that his skin won’t matter anyway because nothing could change the fact that he would still remain ugly for the rest of his life.

MJ is childish. He was like a stray, crazy dog when he visited me in the apartment. He would always seem to be restless and he couldnt stop buzzing me on what activity to do. Everything was a mess when he was around. My life was miserable every time he showed up. The funny thing was that not making him sleep because of my loud snoring didn’t stop him to be in my company.

MJ, the way he puts it, is selfish, but for me, he is more of insensitive. Oftentimes,  he doesnt seem to think of the repurcussion of his actions. One time, I was having a nightmare, and I was gasping for breath. I just heard him shouting my name, but he never stood out from his bed to wake me up. I ended up waking myself up forcefully. I could have been a dead body because of him. Another situations could prove his insensitivity were cases when he slammed the door in full force which created annoyance to the person in another room for its impact or when he used to intentionally leave our room door unlocked out of his laziness or when he would turn our room’s aircon in high mode with its swing directly onto my bed impelling me to put a barrier to direct the flow of the air towards him, instead.

MJ can be, too, clingy. Most of the time, he would casually hook arm to arm with the person near him.  I wasn’t used to such gesture for feeling awkward, but he managed to acquaint myself with his embrace which became naturally acceptable to me. Sometimes, he could use it as a way of patching his shortcomings after days of not showing up, and whenever he started clinging on me, I ended up saying “I am no longer angry.” just so he could already unwrapped his arms around me.

MJ is a good procrastinator. He could leave his plate unwashed without getting rid of it in his room space for a couple of days or he wouldn’t manage to exert effort in reaching out his mom over the phone constantly or he wouldn’t have the initiative to do household chores unless he was told to.

MJ is generous and thoughtful. He managed to send packages back in the Philippines with items and gifts for his friends, relatives, people who helped him before going to Saudi, and even for his neighbors at home. He also gave me a watch the same with his as a token of frienship. In the same way, I also gave him a laptop bag.

MJ has a way of keeping me as his crazy omniscient-like friend. He gave me the benefit to know his entire family. I got the chance to meet his stepfather when we were in saudi. I accompanied him in Jubail to meet his stepdad, and I was put to good use by way of having me to take a photo of them.  The same hospitality was given to me when I visited MJ at his hometown in Nueva Ecija. I met his mom and sister including their immediate relatives. To be warmly welcomed with joy  by the family of your friend is a bliss.

MJ is a good friend. I dont mean good as good, but good as assertive in the way we connect with each other despite our differences. We play around the utilitarian kind of friendship by way of him getting as much as he can from me and in the same way I am to him, like both of us are “professional users” under a mutual contract. Just like writing this means I did my part to feed his demand, and he is up for a payback in return to feed my demand, too. Well, for weird reason, it works for the two of us. It’s because it is not what you think it is.

Well, the truth is if there’s  one thing I am grateful for amidst all the challenges I had encountered living and working in the Middle East, it’s my unexpected, yet meaningful connection with MJ which eventually grew into friendship forged with good company in the best and worst days of our lives in the desert and beyond.


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